By Angelos Anastasiou
Relations between Cyprus and China could be boosted in a number of economic sectors, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday.
Speaking after a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides, Wang said that “cooperation and friendship between the two people” could be strengthened in the areas of shipping, the expansion and management of ports, infrastructure, hydrocarbons, tourism, and agriculture.
“Cyprus is a major shipping player, and we are willing to strengthen cooperation,” Wang said.
“We are also willing to talk about cooperation in ports, and help in the upgrading of Cypriot ports so that Cyprus can play the role of hub better.”
In terms of infrastructure, Wang said that, as a settlement to the Cyprus problem nears, Cyprus and China can discuss further cooperation.
On hydrocarbons, he said further cooperation could be catalysed by the two countries’ common needs.
Wang said 120 million Chinese tourists travelled abroad this year, and, if Cyprus were to absorb just 1 per cent, 1.2 million tourists would visit the island.
On agriculture, Wang noted that olive oil, wine, and dairy products, are very popular in China.
Kasoulides said Cyprus fully supported China’s Silk Road Initiative and could see specific prospects for cooperation.
“A tangible sign of Cyprus’ commitment is its application to become a regional member of the Asian Infrastructure and Development Bank,” he noted. Expanded talks with the delegations of the two countries were also held at the Foreign Ministry.
Wang arrived in Cyprus on Sunday evening on the first day of a two-day official visitWang also touched on the Cyprus issue saying: “China follows developments of negotiations in the Cyprus problem and supports Cyprus’ efforts in safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Earlier on Monday, Wang met President Nicos Anastasiades who spoke of the common desire of Cyprus and China to strengthen bilateral relations even further, mainly in the investment sector.
During the one-hour meeting the two men discussed the Cyprus problem, bilateral relations, and cooperation between the two countries.
“Good discussion with Foreign minister of People’s Republic of China, Mr Wang Yi,” Anastasiades tweeted after the meeting, hashtagging the words ‘CyprusProblem’, ‘BilateralRelations’, and ‘Cooperation’.
Anastasiades also informed Wang of the role the UN Security Council would be asked to assume in the event of a settlement of the Cyprus problem, both in terms of facilitating agreement and implementation oversight. Wang’s visit marks the conclusion of arrivals by the top diplomats of all five permanent members of the United Nations’ Security Council this year.
Wang met House Speaker Yiannakis Omirou. After the meeting, both men noted the warm relations between the two countries, which extend back to the 1970s, when then-president Archbishop Makarios visited China and met with Chairman Mao Tse-tung.
“China always follows the diplomatic practice of equal treatment of large and small countries, and relations between China and Cyprus can become a model for the good relations between large and small countries,” Wang said.
The Chinese foreign minister conveyed the warm regards of Omirou’s counterpart in China, and said bilateral friendship cannot exist without the support of the public, noting that in this context parliament is an important part of maintaining good bilateral relations.
Omirou welcomed Wang to the House of Representatives, and expressed the Cyprus parliament’s sympathy for the victims of Sunday’s tragic landslide in China.
He noted that relations between Cyprus and China are based on mutual respect and jointly-shared principles and values.
“We recall the visit of Cyprus’ first president, Archbishop Makarios, to China in the 1970s, and the meeting he had with then-leadership and Mao Tse-tung,” Omirou said.
On Monday afternoon Wang plans to visit the ancient Greco-Roman theatre at Kourion and later he is to take a walking tour of Phinikoudes in Larnaca before departing in the evening.
Anastasiades was in China in October to boost ties and came away with the message that there was willingness on the part of Beijing in investing in Cyprus.
He said at the time that Cyprus’ participation in the Silk Road Initiative would benefit relations by default as the policy itself implied the strengthening of China’s economic relations with participating countries.
It was also announced during the visit that the government was implementing a series of measures which included the simplification of procedures for the faster issuing of permits and licensing of investment projects and operation of businesses, as well as the speedier granting of residence permits to foreign investors, and visas for visitors that would help in securing more investment and visitors from China.